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  • Dr. Jenna Daku

You have permission to struggle this Festive Season

With Christmas just around the corner, there's an increasing amount of pressure to be cheerful, excited, and 'on it' at work or with family.  Whilst it is the most wonderful time of year for some,  if you are struggling with disordered eating it most certainly will not feel that way.  And I'm here to tell you that this is 100% okay.

Food is everywhere 

Tensions are high

Consumerism threatens to engulf us

As does the pressure to have that 'perfect' Christmas free from disordered eating behaviours

This past week I have had conversations with each and every one of my clients about this, so I thought that I might open it up for you as well and offer you my little speech in case you find it useful:

You are struggling with disordered eating.  OF COURSE you are going to find this time of year difficult.  

OF COURSE you are going to feel anxious about the food, and the family, and the socialising, and the photos, and the diet-chat, and you clothes, and whether you can or will be able to maintain your exercise routine.  

You may be filled with so much anxiety that you are actually dreading seeing your family or friends this year.

So YES you are going to find it difficult.  And you know what? I think we can go ahead and assume that you probably WILL engage in disordered eating behaviours at some point throughout the next two weeks.  Why? Because you are struggling with disordered eating and it comes with the territory.

But -- and this is the most important part -- none of this means that you are a failure.  It doesn't mean you've taken a massive step back in your recovery journey. And it absolutely does NOT mean that you are a bad person or doing the wrong things. 

You are a human being doing the best you possibly can given the circumstances you are faced with - both internally and externally.  And let's face it, your internal landscape isn't exactly the friendliest place to be when you're struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating.  So please, if you do anything this Festive Season, please try not to beat yourself up so much.  

You cannot always entirely control your disordered eating behaviours -- it is, after all, a mental illness -- but you CAN control how you choose to speak to yourself and how you choose respond to yourself when you do engage in those behaviours.   This is where your power lies, and this is how you will take back your power from the disordered eating. 

So, instead of beating yourself up for struggling this time of year or for engaging in behaviours that are engrained ways of coping with your emotions and experiences, try having a little bit of compassion.  

If you can, spend some time right now and write out some compassionate coping statements for yourself.  These are phrases that make sense for you and that you can repeat to yourself when you catch your critical voice bullying you.  

In case you need a bit of help, try this one out:

"I am doing the best that I can"

Once you find one that makes sense for you: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  

In order to change the relationship you have with yourself, food, and your body, you need patience and practice (as Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch like to say).  

You probably won't believe your coping statements every time you say them to yourself, but the more you practice (with patience) and the more you remind yourself to try and be compassionate, the easier it will feel.  This is because you will be building a new neural pathway in your brain. Once that pathway is well trodden it will come more naturally for you to choose it.  This is how our brains work.  

So you have full permission to struggle this Festive Season - without judgement. My one wish for you is that you can find a way of showing up for yourself with compassion instead of criticism.

Because you really are doing the best that you can.  


If you need a little extra boost over the next few weeks, be sure to check out my Festive SelfCare Kit.  Use the code HOHONO to get a £5 discount.   And if you are worried about how to manage Festive Diet-Chat, be sure to check out my interview on Don't Salt My Game.

Wishing you all a compassionate Christmas xx


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